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Springfield Mayor Doubts PawSox Would Seriously Entertain Offer To Leave Rhode Island

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    There are rumblings the Boston Red Sox’s top minor league team may soon be looking for a new home.   Could the team end up in Springfield?  

     Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said inviting the Pawtucket Red Sox to relocate from the team’s longtime Rhode Island home to Springfield is not at present high on his list of priorities.

     "I'd love to bring minor league baseball to Springfield, but it is not a marquee project among everything we have going," Sarno said. " It would be icing on the cake."

     Sarno has been down this base path before.

     Two years ago, the mayor met face-to-face with Larry Lucchino, the former president of the Boston Red Sox, who with other investors had just purchased the Triple-A PawSox and announced plans to build a new stadium for the team in downtown Providence.  Just after that stadium plan fell through, Lucchino and other Sox brass met with Sarno to discuss moving the team to Springfield.

     Now, a proposal to build a new stadium in Pawtucket, where the team has played in McCoy Stadium since 1970, has run into political opposition over state financing.  If the ballpark plan does not advance in the Rhode Island statehouse this month, the PawSox organization is expected to listen to pitches from out-of-state suitors, according to the Boston Globe.

     Sarno has his doubts the PawSox would seriously entertain leaving Rhode Island.

     " Lucchino begins with an 'L' and leverage begins with an 'L'," Sarno said in explaining his skepticism of reports the PawSox  might leave Rhode Island.

     In an interview, Sarno repeatedly stressed that any plan to bring a minor league baseball team to Springfield would depend on “heavy private investment.”

     A group of local business leaders saved professional hockey in Springfield last year when they purchased the AHL franchise in Portland, Maine and moved it to Springfield, where by all accounts the team had a successful inaugural season.

     But, a new arena did not have to be built for the new hockey team.  Springfield would need to build a 10,000 seat ballpark for a minor league baseball team.

    A site in the far northwest corner of the city, along the Connecticut River, has been mentioned as a possible location for a ballpark, according to Springfield’s Director of Buildings, Parks, and Recreation Pat Sullivan.

    Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy floated the idea of building a baseball stadium in downtown Springfield during an economic development presentation in 2015.

   " You can't stand still, you have to keep moving forward. If you are not moving forward you are not making progress," said Kennedy.

    The presentation depicted a baseball stadium along North Main Street at the approximate location where the city’s bus station is now.  The bus operations will be moving shortly to Union Station.

     There’s little to suggest the PawSox owners would have an easier time in Massachusetts getting public financing for a new ballpark.

     The Massachusetts Legislature didn’t blink almost two decades ago when the new owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, threatened to move the team to Hartford, if he couldn’t get a stadium deal in Massachusetts.

    Kraft ended up privately-financing the Patriot’s stadium in Foxboro.  The state did agree to spend millions on improvements to the main highway going past the stadium.

    The inability to get a commitment to publicly finance, if necessary, the venues for Olympic games in Boston resulted in organizers withdrawing their bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

   

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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